Freshman Air Force Academy cadets culminate basic training with Big Bad Basic tournament

Air Force Academy freshman cadets for the Class of 2021 march into Jacks Valley during basic training.


By LIZ FORSTER | The Gazette (Tribune News Service) | Published: August 5, 2017

In a rare emotional display at the Air Force Academy, freshman cadets cheered wildly, hoping their chants and chides would push their squadron to the top of the single elimination pugil stick tournament.

The Big Bad Basic competition is the final test of the freshman class's six-week training. It pits the freshman cadets in single combat against classmates in a circular sand pit in Jacks Valley, the training area on the north side of the academy.

The weapon of choice is the pugil stick, a 4-foot-long pole with padding on either end and grips in the middle. The training weapons have used since the early 1940s by military personnel in training for hand-to-hand fights.

The eight men and eight women representing their squadrons were expected to use fighting techniques they learned during field training to make definitive head or body contact with opponents. One solid prod equals one point, three points for a win.

"After 10 days of field training, the basics now come together to support each other and their squadrons in a cause they all support, and that's hitting each other with sticks," said senior cadet Casey Bell, who helped lead the training.

For Bell, the tournament shows basics that they cannot be part of a team until they can take care of themselves.

"The basics first show they have the warrior ethos during the fight and then step up for their team to prove their squadron is the best," Bell said.

During Bell's basic training, cadets in the audience threw punches at each other in the excitement of tournament. Although no fights broke out between squadrons this year, basics were sure to put their squadron pride on full display. In the end, the "No Guts, No Glory" squadron claimed the female division title and the "Cobras" claimed title for the men.

"I'm so proud of her," the cadre commanding No Guts, No Glory yelled through the crowd.

On Thursday morning, freshmen were up at 4 a.m. for combat training. The eight squadrons accumulated points throughout the day. The tournament was the climax of the day.

"As we frequently say here at the academy, it pays to be a winner," Bell said.

The tournament marks the end of the basics' 10-day field training, which includes obstacle, assault and confidence courses as well as training in weapons, maintenance and first aid.

On Thursday, the freshmen marched 5 miles from Jacks Valley back to the academy's main campus.

The Class of 2021 will pin on their fourth-class cadet rank and swear to uphold the academy's honor code on Tuesday at 9 a.m. at Stillman Parade Field, symbolizing their acceptance into the Cadet Wing.

The event is open to the public. The north gate will be open to visitors at 6 a.m.

©2017 The Gazette (Colorado Springs, Colo.)
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